I don’t think there is a time in history where it has been more challenging to be a journalist or content producer (as the digital natives would say) as is the case today. The ease of getting information across has also made it so easy for misinformation to thrive. Those with real information and those without are in a tight competition to get it out first, fast and then wait as it does the rounds.
Content is easily valued based on how much it has been consumed and not how credible it is. Many people are wired to share that which they have seen many others endorsing by sharing on their social media platforms and then verifying it (or not) later. With social media turning almost everyone into a content producer or journalist the struggle to claim bragging rights is immense and tempting.
A few days back, American actor Will Smith was sighted somewhere in Tanzania and suddenly there were different people using the same picture claiming he was in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. A friend wondered what magic the actor had used to be in three places at the same time. I happened to look at the picture and I could recognise the aircraft in it was one licensed to operate only in Tanzania.
After pointing this out to some people, the tweets or if you want the fake news, was deleted in what I consider the digital walk of shame. On the flip side one can say that it would have been awesome for the actor to visit all the East African countries after all we have put in quite some time and effort marketing our region as a single destination and even went as far as creating a single visa to ease the process.
Another episode of fake news that did the rounds recently was in form of some real news contaminated by some fake news. In a story about child rape by peacekeepers in Central African Republic, France24 used pictures of Rwandan soldiers and yet Rwandan soldiers have not been involved in any such case.
For some reason this is not the first time that such pictures have been used in a story they had nothing to do with. It seems like an obsession or laziness on the part of the journalists to always go for the picture with Rwanda Defence Forces personnel. The good thing is that Rwandans were ‘woke’ and immediately sent out thousands of tweets calling out France24 under the hashtag #SomeoneTellFrance24. Later on a weak excuse that it had been automatically published with an AFP wire did not seem sufficient given that this was not the first time this was happening.
Surprisingly this came just a few days after someone in Kenya had designed a message about the Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia but the picture used had Uganda People’s Defence Forces. With pictures people notice fast and call you out for the fake news. After all a picture tells a thousand words so they say. So a fake picture tends to scream “I am fake!”
There was also this rumour that celebrated South African comedian Trevor Noah was coming to Uganda. It turned out to be fake news but Ugandans on Twitter were not going to take it lying down. They instead started a hashtag to convince the comedian who hosts The Daily Show, to come and visit Uganda.
The hilarious tweets were so many that he eventually responded and said, “OK Uganda, you win. I’ll try to visit sometime. But when I land, I want the original Rolex made by Sula in Wandegeya.” And Ugandans on Twitter claimed a major victory. This was also a good ending to a fake news story with an endorsement of Uganda by someone with over six million followers.
Personally I loved that he mentioned the famous Rolex (chapatti and omelette rolled together) a street food delicacy that emerged in recent years to become something Ugandan love and have branded as their own especially with the tagline that in Uganda they do not wear the Rolex (the famous timepiece) but eat it!
The mention of the Rolex street food is proof that we need to do more to market experiences when marketing East Africa as a travel destination. I really recommend that anyone visiting Uganda asks to taste the famous Rolex. Culinary tourism is something we should embrace to give the world a taste of real news for their palates.Follow https://twitter.com/ssojo81